Communication with an artificial intelligence through voice commands has been the holy grail of sci-fi nuts since the “Library Computer Access and Retrieval System” was first sighted on Star Trek: The Next Generation. It was only with the launch of Google Voice Actions, about a year ago, that voice commands became a reality. Despite being first, Google’s Voice Actions did not receive any major improvements after its initial launch and now it looks as though Apple’s alternative “Siri” has taken the speech input crown away from Google. Unlike Voice Actions, which requires the user to say specific commands, Siri relies on natural language input allowing users to create their own commands, often with humorous responses.
Although Google dropped the ball with its Voice Actions app, an enterprising company by the name of Dexetra has taken it upon themselves to create their own Siri-like alternative. This app is called “Iris”, which is the opposite of Siri. At first test, the beta version was not all that impressive as the responses I got to the majority of my questions were simply humorous quips.
But, for an app that was developed in an 8-hour hackathon, it showed a lot of promise.
Shortly thereafter, they decided to release Iris to the Android Market and it became quite a hit. The responses are now actual answers to the questions and I have started to see less and less of the humour and more useful information. For example, when I asked the questions “what time is it?“, “where am I?“, and “what’s the weather today?“, I received fairly realistic responses (minus the location question – it can’t get everything correct).
Accompanying the text was an eerie female computer voice that read out all the text on the screen.
The responses became even better when I asked more specific, general knowledge questions, such as “what is the GDP of China?“, “tell me about Microsoft” or “square root of 567“.
Finally, Iris, like Siri, lets you control your phone with just your voice. You can issue commands like, “please call John“, at which point Iris confirms that you wish to call John and the proceeds to place the call.
But, fear not, the humour still remains.
At this point, Iris is hardly a contender to Siri. Although Iris can answer the most basic and straightforward questions, it lacks context and so is unable to be truly useful in an everyday scenario. But, I look forward to its development. Kudos to Binil and the rest of the Dexetra team, what began as a fun project for them has turned into a potential game changing product for Android users.